U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) revealed on Monday that only six immigrants had been encountered on the U.S-Mexico border in the first half of fiscal year 2018 whose names were on a federal government list of known or suspected terrorists, according to CBP data obtained exclusively by NBC News.
“Exclusive Finally got the answer to the question we’ve been asking since Sarah Sanders said 4K terrorists were stopped at the southern border,” tweeted NBC News correspondent Julia Ainsley.
Exclusive Finally got the answer to the question we’ve been asking since Sarah Sanders said 4K terrorists were stopped at the southern border. https://t.co/iFMMwdRQZW
— Julia E. Ainsley (@JuliaEAinsley) January 7, 2019
The low number of apprehensions directly contradicts public statements made by several Trump administration officials, including White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who claimed on Friday that CBP had stopped nearly 4,000 known or suspected terrorists from crossing the southern border in fiscal year 2018.
Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace confronted Sanders this weekend when she attempted to push the debunked figure pushed by the Trump administration.
Vice President Mike Pence in October repeated a “pants on fire” claim that the Trump administration had “apprehended more than 10 terrorists or suspected terrorists per day at our southern border from countries that are referred to in the lexicon as ‘other than Mexico.’ That means from the Middle East region,” Pence falsely claimed at the time.
Secretary of Homeland Security Kirstjen Nielsen parroted the same figure to reporters on Monday.
According to NBC News:
Overall, 41 people on the Terrorist Screening Database were encountered at the southern border from Oct. 1, 2017, to March 31, 2018, but 35 of them were U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents. Six were classified as non-U.S. persons. On the northern border, CBP stopped 91 people listed in the database, including 41 who were not American citizens or residents.
The White House has used the 4,000 figure to make its case for building a wall on the southwest border and for closing the government until Congress funds it. They have also threatened to call a national emergency in order to get over $5 billion in funding for the wall.